Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Transgender runner Amelia Gapin says transgender women won't have advantage in Boston Marathon

Alex Reimer
April 12, 2018 - 4:45 pm

At least five openly transgender women runners will compete in the Boston Marathon on Monday. The Boston Athletic Association says it allows runners to register as they wish, with no questions asked. 

The BAA’s hands-off policy regarding transgender runners has reignited the debate about whether transgender athletes receive competitive advantages over their cisgender counterparts. In the Boston Herald, a biologist from the University of California says those with “male gonads” produce more testosterone than other women, giving them an edge. 

Transgender marathoner Amelie Gapin, who will race in Boston this year, disagrees with the biologist’s assertion. In an interview this week on “Two Outs,” she says that line of thinking is a myth. 

“People who don't understand think we have an advantage. They think the IOC and USA (Track and Field) changed their rules for how transgender athletes can compete because of our feelings, instead of understanding this wasn't based on feelings,” she explained. “This was based on the research and science that shows there's no competitive advantage. The old rules were unnecessary. They went too far. When they changed these rules, they did it to be in accordance with the research, and what reality showed.”

Gapin, the first transgender woman to be featured on the cover of Women’s Running Magazine, says she’s been taking hormones for the last several years. She says her performance has suffered during that time frame. 

“The realty is, my testosterone level for the last four or five years has been under the normal female range for testosterone by quite a bit,” she said. “I don't have these high levels of testosterone. I lost roughly 10 percent off my performance from where I used to be to where I am now. If you actually look at the performances of men and women in the sport of running, there is about a 10 percent difference if you measure at the top level. So I fell off into that range you would expect to be the difference between men and women.”

While Gapin has been taking hormones, and opted for surgery, there are other transgender athletes who haven’t taken those steps. When it comes to whether they experience a competitive advantage, Gapin admits the the topic is a bit cloudier, but not just because of trans people. 

“When it comes to competing at the level where you're winning prize money, there is a hard conversation that we probably have to have in sport for how we segregate in general. Not just because of trans people, but because of cisgender men and women who don't have normal hormone levels,” she said. “Caster Semenya is a runner who's not transgender, but she has high levels of testosterone. And she's an Olympian. That's been kind of a talking point in the track community for a while. So I think there's a conversation to have there.

“It's murky. I think hormones are very important, and they change a lot. But I also think it's completely dehumanizing to tell a transgender woman she has to register as a male. That part is a tough conversation. I don't know if there are easy answers. But I also don't think this is just a problem because of transgender people.”